Singer Surname Meaning, History & Origin
Singer is more likely to have German or Jewish origins; or it can be an
surname. In each case the root is
occupational, a singer.
is the name for a cantor in a synagogue.
German names can be Saenger or Senger. Singer in English comes
from the Old English singan,
meaning “to sing,” and would describe a professional
singer, perhaps someone who toured with a travelling theater. Singer
or Sanger here would be male. The
female equivalent is Sangster.
Singer Resources on
History of the Singer sewing family.
- Some Singer Families of Pennsylvania
is a name mainly to be found in Bavaria and Austria today.
The numbers here are around 15,000. Immigrant
data for America in the 19th
century showed that 75% of the Singers came from Germanic lands. But the Yiddish diaspora at that time stretched
into Poland and Russia, which is where, for instance, the writer I.B.
Singer name in England is mainly to be found in the southwest of the
country, in Somerset and stretching into Wiltshire (where the spelling
There were many Singers in
Frome. John Webb Singer was born there
and that was where he established his brass foundry in 1851. He
made brass ornaments for local churches and became better known as the
Movement led to an increasing demand for these ornaments.
the bicycle and automobile pioneer, was born not too
far away in Stinsford, Dorset. His history was recounted in Kevin
Atkinson’s 2008 book The Singer Story.
Jewish. In 1837
Julius Singer arrived in London from Hungary and traded as a
clothier. His son Simeon became a
leader of the Jewish community in England in the later 19th century and
of the widely-used Authorized Daily Prayer Book; while
Simeon’s son Charles was a prominent British historian of
science and technology.
Scotland. Another concentration of the
Singer name in
the UK was to be found in Aberdeen. The
name here might have originally been Sengoir, with these Singers
having been Huguenot refugees who had settled in Aberdeen as well as in
county Down in Ireland. Adam Singer
dates from about 1700 in Aberdeen.
America. Richard Sanger came from Wiltshire on the Confidence to New England in 1638 and
settled in Watertown. His descendants
remained there or in neighboring
Sherborn for the next two hundred years.
Singers entered mainly via Pennsylvania in the 18th century. The first mention appears to have been a
Richard Sanger, a Philadelphia merchant, who died there in 1726. Many were to be found in Lancaster
Singer arrived in 1750 and settled after the Revolutionary
War in Lebanon county. Christian Singer,
born in Germantown there in 1777, became an early settler in Jackson
name started to appear in upstate New York records in the 1760’s. John Singer was recorded in Pownal in
is now Vermont in 1765. A later John
Singer from Pownal was orphaned during the Revolutionary War as a young
ended up in a refugee camp in Canada. As
an adult he successfully petitioned for land in Clinton township in the
region. He and his wife Susannah raised
eleven children there.
came to Rensselaer county in New York in 1803, having changed
from Reisinger after leaving his home in Heidelberg, Germany. His son Isaac, born in 1811, ran away from
home at the age of twelve. He was always
an experimenter and turned his hand in later life to sewing machines. While others had patented sewing machines
before him, his sewing machine – which he brought to the market in 1851
more success than the others as it was more practical, more adaptable
use, and could be bought on hire-purchase.
Singer was on his way to fame and fortune.
He was to have fives “wives” and twenty two children. Edgar Collins Singer, one of the investors
behind the torpedo ship Hunley that sunk
in Charleston harbor in 1864, is believed to have been his nephew. The Singer Company
continued until 2000.
Later came Jewish immigrants from the Yiddish diaspora,
prominent among them being:
Singer, born in Moravia (in the present Czech Republic), who arrived in
York in 1895 where he raised money for the Jewish
Encyclopedia that he had envisioned. He
subsequently edited the twelve volume work
- Jacques Singer, born in Poland,
who came to America in 1921, settling in Jersey City.
He, like his father, was a symphony
conductor. His wife Leslie was a concert
pianist. His children Lori and Marc
became well-known actors.
- Isaac Bashevis
Singer, born near Warsaw in Poland, who came to New York in 1935 as the
threat was rising. His Yiddish stories
in the Jewish Daily Forward earned
him a devoted readership.
- and Rabbi Joseph Singer,
from Pilzno in
Poland, who fled the Nazi threat in 1939 and brought his Hasidic
Judaism to New York.
Canada. Abraham and Bella Singer were Jewish immigrants
from Poland who came to Calgary in the early 1900’s.
Their son Jack Singer, the third of four
children, grew rich in commercial real estate.
He ended up owning a Hollywood movie studio and hobnobbing with
entertainment industry elite there.
Singers and Sangers Today
George Singer’s Birthplace. At the time George Singer was born, on January 26 1847, George’s parents, George and Helen, lived in what is now the Old Manor House on
the Kingston Maurward Estate in the parish of Stinsford near Dorchester
Dorset. George senior was a farm manager
on the estate. The house was divided to provide accommodation for a
number of estate
workers and their families.
visits to the Manor House will be a major part of the George Singer Day
Kingston Maurward on September 13, 2013.
A plaque will be unveiled by the gateway to the house to
occasion. The annual Singer car weekend
in the Dorchester area will be held at that time.
The Sangers of Sherborn, Massachusetts. The Sangers
were among the most prominent families in Sherborn’s history.
Nathaniel Sanger had arrived in Sherborn in 1689 and established a
blacksmithing business there.
next Richard of the family grew wealthy from
trade and real estate investment. He was
one of three men in Sherborn known to keep slaves.
His home, built in 1734 on 60 Washington
Street, is still standing. In
he kept a tavern in the town.
Calvin Sanger was a lawyer,
politician, store owner, cotton mill partner, and real estate tycoon. He purchased a township in Maine and
established a saw and grist mill there.
This town was later incorporated as Sangerville.
Michael Singer in Pennsylvania. Michael Singer
was a young man when his father and the rest of his family were killed by
Indians at the time of the Revolutionary War.
He was serving as a captain in the 4th Battalion from Dauphin
his marriage, he moved into an area now called Lebanon County. For a number of years they lived in a large
stone house near Harrisburg and owned a distillery in the area.
in fact was
a man of many talents. He was an outstanding mathematician, well versed
astronomy, and was also a surveyor, serving as County Surveyor. He drew up plans and helped in construction of
large mills and frequently prepared the calculations for the
almanacs. Much of
this information was learned from the diaries that he kept. These
written in German in a most elegant style of penmanship.
Isaac Singer’s Erratic Home Life. After Isaac
Singer’s success with his sewing machine in 1851, he went to live in a Fifth
Avenue mansion in New York City with his so-called “wife” at that time Mary Ann Sponsler and their children.
He finally got a divorce from his first wife Catharine in 1860,
having the effrontery to accuse her of adultery.
But all was not as it seemed.
Isaac Singer was leading a double or, in fact, a triple life. Singer had a “third” family with
Mary Eastwood Walters who bore him a daughter, Alice Eastwood. And Singer also had a “fourth”
family with Mary McGonigal, an employee at his company’s factory. She had already borne Singer five children
and had set up a household with him as the Matthews family. One day Mary Ann Sponsler saw her husband
driving in a carriage with Mary openly.
This embarrassment was too much for her and Sponsler had Singer
for bigamy. He was released on
bail. However, his reputation was ruined.
In 1862 Singer and Mary McGonigal sailed for
Europe where Singer would remain for the rest of his life. A year
married his fifth “wife” Isabella Boyer, a French model who was just twenty
two. By his five “wives,”
Singer fathered 24 children, of whom two died young. When he died
acknowledged 22 children in his will.
Singer, the twentieth of these children, eventually became the heir to
Singer sewing machine fortune. An elder
became part of the English landed gentry set.
A younger brother Paris, who had a child by the dancer Isadora
was one of the architects and financiers of the Palm Beach resort in
The Demise of the Singer Company. In 1989,
the Singer Company, then a shadow of its former self, was purchased by
Ting, a Chinese-Canadian businessman born in Canton but educated in
Australia. He said he understood the
continuing value of the Singer brand around the world.
magic in the
name,” he told Newsweek. “It’s
well-known from the jungles of Africa
to Latin America, Europe, all over the world.
You couldn’t buy a better brand.”
Ting managed to convince banks in the
US, Canada and Hong Kong to lend him hundreds of millions of dollars to
revitalize the company and the brand.
Instead he set up an elaborate network of companies through
defrauded the banks and the company before disappearing in China in
years later he surrendered to Hong Kong authorities and, in a scandal
known as the “Hong Kong Enron,” was tried, convicted and sentenced to
consecutive six year terms.
Rabbi Joseph Singer’s Return to Pilzno. Joseph Singer
had fled his home in Poland in 1939 as the Nazis were preparing their
invasion. He brought his particular
brand of Hasidic Judaism to the streets of New York and to the Stanton
Synagogue. Almost sixty years later, an
old man now, he returned to Pilzno in 1996. The
occasion was a groundbreaking ceremony for the gate around the Jewish
in the town where his father, who had served as the Rav of Pilzno from
1914, and his grandparents had been buried.
The journey for Rabbi Joseph and his entourage was very
important. As David Singer
our children this is a very important pilgrimage. They
know that our roots, the beginnings of
our Hasidic religion, are to be found in Galicia. Here
are the graves of famous tsadikim, here
are the graves of our forefathers. This
pilgrimage will help them better understand their history and religion.”
they entered the ohel, with its plaque announcing that there lay
Nathan, tsadikim and ancestors of the Bobower rebbe, their spiritual
Brooklyn, the pilgrims were deeply moved.
- Isaac Singer was the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company in 1851.
- George Singer was a 19th century cycle manufacturer who was a pioneer of both cycle and motor car
development in England.
- Isidore Singer was the founder and editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer was the Polish-born Yiddish
writer in America awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.
- Frederick Sanger is a British biochemist who was twice awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Select Singer Numbers Today
- 5,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 12,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
- 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Select Singer and Like Surnames
The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland. They were fleeing religious persecution at home. Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them. Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York. Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names. Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.
The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft. They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up. And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.
Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.
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